Rory McIlroy embraced the possibility of challenging conditions as he looked to play himself back into contention in the 87th Masters.
McIlroy, who needs to claim a coveted green jacket at Augusta National to complete a career grand slam, could only card an opening 72 on Thursday to lie seven shots off the lead shared by Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka.
With bad weather forecast, Friday’s tee times have been brought forward by 30 minutes with McIlroy among the early starters hoping to get all 18 holes in without disruption.
“I think when you’re chasing it’s probably the harder the better,” McIlroy said. “The more difficult the course is, I think that’s probably favourable conditions for chasing a little bit or trying to catch up.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen on Friday. Hopefully we don’t get affected by it too much and we can get out there and play 18 holes uninterrupted and I can shoot something in the mid-60s and get myself back in it.”
The challenge faced by McIlroy was compounded by the strength in depth on the leaderboard, with Cameron Young and Jason Day two off the lead and seven players a shot further back on four under.
That group included defending champion Scottie Scheffler, former Open champion Shane Lowry and 2013 winner Adam Scott, as well as US Amateur champion Sam Bennett.
Tiger Woods faced an uphill battle to avoid missing the cut for the first time as a professional after an opening 74.
Quote of the day
Joint leader Jon Rahm took inspiration from fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros after his nightmare start.
Shot of the day
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler carded an opening 68, aided by an eagle three on the par-five second.
Round of the day
They say many good rounds start with a bogey, but not many 65s start with a four-putt double-bogey at Augusta National.
Statistic of the day
Co-leader Viktor Hovland ignored the distractions which usually come with playing alongside Woods to card a bogey-free 65.
The par-five 15th played to an average of 4.593, yielding four eagles and 38 birdies to the 86-man field.
The par-four 11th played to an average of 4.360 after giving up just four birdies. Seven players made a double bogey.
A few morning showers will become more numerous in the afternoon with a scattered thunderstorm threat between 2-5pm. Breezy north-easterly winds behind the front will usher in colder conditions after 3pm. With this in mind, tee times were brought forward by 30 minutes with the first group starting at 7.30am.